Minneapolis now fields unarmed “behavioral crisis response teams” that will answer to some calls instead of police officers.
These teams are not full-time city employees. Rather, they’re contractors hired on a $6 million, two-year deal with Canopy Mental Health and Consulting to provide 24/7 crisis response “dispatched through 911,” a company spokesperson told KARE 11. They have also “receive[d] extensive training on race and gender identity,” according to the city.
If dispatchers receive reports about what they believe to be an emotionally disturbed person (EDP), they can now assign one of the new, unarmed behavioral response teams “directly to the call without a police response,” the spokesperson said.
“We are effectively adding a fourth responder between fire, police, EMS and now mental health,” Mayor Jacob Frey explained on Monday during a press event announcing the new operation.
However, their first day on the job had a rocky start as confusion abounded regarding when they would actually be available.
When a dispatcher tried to assign a call to one of these teams Monday morning, they were apparently unable to do so as the mental health responders were busy at the press conference about themselves.
Crime Watch Minneapolis clipped and posted dispatcher audio that illustrates what happened:
Dispatcher: “EDP West Broadway, caller feels like a relative [unintelligible] people they know are fighting.”
Responder: “Are you sending car 74 out to that or is this going to be a police call?”
Dispatcher: “They’re not available until like noon. They have a press conference.”
Crime Watch reports that car 74 is the code for the new behavioral response teams.
A dispatcher confirmed that the team was tied up at the press conference during a second correspondence.
Meanwhile, Brian Smith, who is the director of the city’s Office of Performance and Innovation, reminded the audience at the press conference that the new mental health responders would not be available until noon.
“I wanted to say something that [I] neglected to say … the time, the launch will be officially going at noon today,” he said.
Council Members Steve Fletcher and Phillipe Cunningham also spoke, the latter of whom praised the “moment” with enthusiasm.
“What is really amazing is that we’re going to be able to look at this moment and see that this was one of the first major moments in the city of Minneapolis where we actually stepped up and met the moment of when we looked back at our reflection of 2020,” Cunningham said.